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Tips on Selling

If a pitch starts badly, it won’t improve
If a pitch starts badly, it won’t improve

How to lose a sale - before you get it

It’s surprisingly easy to lose a sale. From inadequate communication to bad timing, BRIAN JEFFREY explores the common pitfalls, oversights and mistakes sellers make when interacting with prospective clients.

It’s a shame but there are salespeople who are losing sales before they even have the chance to begin them.

That’s right – sales staff are reaching into their holsters, pulling out their pistols and shooting themselves in the foot before they even have a chance to talk to their prospect.

Slow off the mark

A slow reaction time can annoy a prospect even at the very beginning of a sales pitch. As a case in point, I recently decided to enlist a company to revamp my website – to give it a face-lift, so to speak.

I couldn’t do it myself because I have the creativity of a pebble. I also don’t speak or understand HTML, the language of the web.

I contacted a couple of recommended web designers and waited for them to call me and here’s where my problem began. I waited and waited. Obviously, they didn’t need any more business as I’m still waiting for some of them to call!

What goes through my mind is that if a business takes this long to make initial contact, how long will I have to wait for them to actually do the job?

If your response time to a prospect’s initial request is too long, he or she might write you off before you even get a chance to start the process.

Even if you do get to commence your pitch, you’ve got an uphill climb to recapture that prospect’s trust.

From bad to worse

It’s a safe bet that if a sales pitch is going badly during the early stages, it isn’t going to get much better. In fact, it’s more likely that it will get even worse still!

You’ve undoubtedly had similar situations as a salesperson. You’ve got the prospect from hell and the sale is a bigger challenge than it really should be.

"If your response time to a prospect’s initial request is too long, he or she might write you off before you even get a chance to start the process"

He doesn’t return your calls, wants to bicker over every little detail and, in general, he wants to jerk you around.

If you think it’s going to be better after you’ve got his money, think again. It usually gets worse. After a sale, the prospect from hell can turn into the customer from hell.

No salesperson wants a bad sale and no prospect wants a bad buy. Bad sales and bad buys are the same; they don’t start off well and they both degenerate into even worse situations.

If your prospect even smells a hint of problems at the early stages of a sale, he’s going to be wary and start looking for alternate sources of whatever it is you’re selling.

Sending the wrong message

So what makes a prospect wary? Lack of hustle, for one! If it takes you too long to get back to a potential customer after his initial inquiry, you’re on your way to a bad sale.

You’re sending the message that you don’t care and if you don’t care, maybe the rest of the company doesn’t care either.

Little things can make a big difference. If you don’t think that little things matter, consider this – you’re sitting in a plane waiting for take-off and the tray in front of you pops open. You notice that it’s dirty and warped. Wouldn’t you then wonder about the engines?

If they can’t fix and clean something as simple as a tray, how well do they maintain the rest of the aircraft?!

Another thing that makes a person wary is when a salesperson fails to keep their promises. Remember when you told your potential customer that you’d call her back before the end of the day?

Okay so you say you didn’t promise her and that you were just telling her what you intended to do, right?

You may have been busy or unable to get the information she wants.

Telling someone you’ll call at a specific time is perceived promise in the prospect’s mind, and prospects don’t differentiate between perceived promises and real ones.

Keep your word

Your ability – or inability – to respond quickly to inquiries or to get back to someone as promised are both measures of your reliability. People want to deal with and buy from reliable people.

Make sure you start every sales opportunity on the right foot by being timely and proving yourself to be reliable.

Do this and you’ll stand out by a country mile because your competition probably isn’t doing it.

It’s the tiniest of things that can make the biggest impact. Remember this the next time you see a dirty tray on the plane.

Brian Jeffrey

Contributor • Quintarra Consulting

Brian Jeffrey has more than 40 years' experience in sales management, training and business consulting. Learn more:

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